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Main story: Gavilan College opens its Coyote Valley site to about 80 students

Currently, 58 police cadets are training at the South Bay Regional Public Safety Training Consortium

Published in the March 29 – April 11, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Marty Cheek

Photo courtesy Trude Janssen
A cadet stands at attention at the recently-opened South Bay Regional Public Safety Training Consortium at Gavilan College’s new Coyote Valley Education Center campus in south San Jose.

One year after construction began on what was a muddy field of the 55-acre Gavilan Community College campus in Coyote Valley, about 80 students began taking winter session classes in the newly-opened facility. On Jan 3, the “newbies” were met by Gavilan President Kathleen Rose.

“I showed up the first day to greet the students on their first day of class,” she said. “And I jumped in in my usual Pollyanna way and said, ‘Hey, welcome to Coyote Valley. We’re so glad you’re here. You’re the first people to sit in these desks, the first people in the classrooms.’ And they’re looking at me like who is this person?” She laughed. “And then I introduced myself.”

Several of the students joined administrators and officials at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Feb. 14. The attendees explored the state-of-the-art equipment and furniture in the new modular buildings and learned from Rose and board trustees about the hopes for the Coyote Valley campus’s future expansion during the second phase of construction. That phase will be based on how quickly enrollment grows, which will drive funding for expanding the campus.

“It’s going to take some time to grow this location,” Rose said. “But even driving up Bailey Avenue today, now you can see a real site, a real location. You see a real community college.”

The first phase of construction began Jan. 6, 2016 after board trustees approved $4.5 million in contracts. About 20 acres of the land was given by the Sobrato family. The rest was purchased from the $108 million Measure E bond that was approved by voters in 2004. Construction costs for the first phase came to $16 million, of which $12.5 were from Measure E and the rest from donations.

Photo courtesy Trude Janssen
A police instructor inspects cadets at the recently-opened South Bay Regional Public Safety Training Consortium at Gavilan College’s new Coyote Valley campus.

When completely finished in the next 10 to 30 years depending upon the availability of state funding, the site will be home to a full-service community college accommodating up to 10,000 students.

The five-building campus of the first phase has about 28,800 square feet of classrooms and specialized facilities for the South Bay Regional Public Safety Training Consortium program. About 10 percent of current Gavilan students are in the police academy.

Evergreen Valley College, where a majority of the training was handled, decided to no longer offer those services to all peace officer trainees. In mid February the current class of 58 police cadets made the move to the new Coyote Valley site.

Non-academy class offerings at Coyote Valley campus include communications, computer science, kinesiology, Pilates and mathematics. Future classes may include drone technology repair and maintenance classes available next year, Rose said. Across Bailey Avenue is IBM’s prestigious laboratory. She hopes that if the college is a “good neighbor” with that company, there might be partnerships in learning opportunities for Gavilan’s students.

“We’re really waiting for some of the faculty members to drive some of the decision instructionally,” Rose said. “And the faculty have surveyed the demographics, and it’s a bit of a blank slate, which is exciting for us.”

The location of wetlands surrounding the new campus as well as the nearby Coyote Ridge and Coyote Valley Open Space Authority trails might also make the facility a perfect location for environmental studies training, she said.

Rose hopes the campus will enable more members of the community to be involved in Gavilan College.

“We’re bringing the community back into the college, and that’s my theme ever since the presidency,” she said. “And that’s why I’m out talking over and over about it to anyone who will hear me talk. We want people to know that this is their college.”

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, consortium President/CEO Steve Cushing showed off the new facilities for students entering police and fire careers. The classrooms include space for physical training, locker/shower rooms, and technology-based training simulators.

Eventually, the consortium can have as many as 150 students on site, including fire and emergency dispatch trainees. Unlike Evergreen’s campus, the site will most likely not include a gun firing range to train officers in safety and target practice. Such an option will cost as much as $9 million to build because of all the safety and hazard control requirements, Cushing said.

“Evergreen’s physical plant is very similar to what this is,” he said. “What we have there that we don’t have here is an indoor firing range.”